On the 1st of May, every year, the working class throughout the world, cel
ebrate May Day; in order to pay homage to the martyrs of Chicago who laid
down their lives against exploitation of the working class and the blatant denial of trade union rights. These martyrs of Chicago laid down their lives in the year 1886.
Their struggle bore fruit and brought them victory when their main demand of fixation of eight working hours per working day for industrial workers was accepted. Before this industrial workers were made to work for fourteen to sixteen hours per day on a small salary. They had no job security, no medical or insurance cover in case of accidents. Often if industrial workers raised their voice to demand their rights, for improving their economic and living conditions, they were punished by their employers.
The demonstration held in 1886, was ruthlessly dealt with by the exploitative forces. The result was that many workers lost their lives. When the demonstrating industrial workers reached HAY MARKET, in the heart of Chicago, they were fired upon by state forces. But these workers did not shed their blood in vain. Their message was clearly received the world over.
In the year 1889 a congress of socialist parties, which met in Paris, France, opted to support the Chicago labour movement’s demand of an eight hours workday. They, the members of the congress, chose May 1st 1890 to demonstrate in favour of an eight hours workday. After this day, May 1st came to be observed as May Day or Labour Day to commensurate the struggle of the workers in 1886. In Pakistan, a public holiday is observed on May 1st.
There are many instances in our country where labourers are made to work for more than eight hours a day. Workers in brick kilns, children working in carpet factories often lead a miserable life.
As in the past, even today, the May Day banner—The Red Flag is hoisted and carried by millions of workers the world over. The May Day gave rise to International Labour Organization. The ILO aims at improvement of working conditions of labourers, setting up social security centres and bringing about social justice. These rights are the fundamental rights of the working class and have to be implemented in every sense of the word. Human labour is the backbone of a developing country. The workers should be well looked after and kept contented. The American poet Emerson has written, ‘Not gold, but only men can make a nation great and strong — they build the nation’s pillars deep, and lift them to the sky.’